The Failure to Challenge Pat Robertson

March 13, 1995|By WILLIAM PFAFF

PARIS — Paris. -- In 1991 the Rev. Pat Robertson, the evangelical television preacher, founder of the 1.5 million-member ''Christian Coalition,'' an influential figure on the American political right, published a book called ''The New World Order.'' It was a direct response to George Bush's proclamation of that supposed new order, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War.

In this book Mr. Robertson described the threat to American sovereignty posed, he said, by a conspiracy of internationalist forces dominating not only the U.N. but liberal and internationalist political circles within both American political parties.

The book interpreted modern history as manipulated by a conspiracy of ''the Illuminati,'' described by Mr. Robertson as an 18th-century secret society which infiltrated and took over European Freemasonry, aided by Jewish bankers. He says that it was subsequently responsible for the death of Louis XVI, the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution and the ''commissioning'' of Marx's and Engels' Communist Manifesto.

According to Mr. Robertson, this conspiracy tried in the 19th century to conquer the United States by imposing a national bank, but was thwarted by Andrew Jackson. However when Abraham Lincoln defied ''the monopoly which European bankers exercised'' over the currency of the United States, the Illuminati hired John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Lincoln. Mr. Robertson says ''there is no hard evidence'' to prove this, but such is his conviction.

The conspirators finally had their way in the United States ''when a German banker, Paul Warburg, succeeded in establishing the Federal Reserve Board, America's privately owned central bank,'' in 1913. The purpose of the conspirators in our century has been to amass private profits from loans to governments forced by the world wars and the Cold War to run deficits and borrow money from the conspiracy's banks.

Mr. Robertson implies that the wars themselves were instigated by the Illuminati. However this ''tightly knit cabal's ultimate goal ''is nothing less than a new order for the human race under the domination of Lucifer and his followers.''

Last month Michael Lind discussed this book in the New York Review, accusing Mr. Robertson of anti-Semitism, an accusation also made by the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League and the New York Times columnist, Frank Rich. Mr. Robertson issued a statement a week ago denying that he ''would ever embrace theories that would cast doubt upon the Jewish community.'' Prominent Jewish neo-conservatives, including Midge Decter (in

Commentary), Irving Kristol and Mr. Kristol's son, William Kristol, the Republican strategist, have defended him. Miss Decter accused the Anti-Defamation League of an ''anti-Christian'' and ''anti-religious'' bias.

Is Mr. Robertson's theory anti-Semitic? Of course it is, at least implicitly. It is a garbled amalgam of various paranoid accounts of occult conspiracy which have circulated among the ignorant and the credulous since at least the time of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. This idea of a clandestine alliance over three centuries of ''European bankers,'' Bolsheviks and Socialists, and present-day liberals and internationalists, manipulating governments and inspiring wars for their own profit, has always explicitly or implicitly identified the bankers, Communists and liberals as Jews.

Is Mr. Robertson an anti-Semite? Like many Protestant fundamentalists, he is a firm supporter of Israel. Many fundamentalists see the ingathering of the Jews in the Holy Land as a herald of the New Testament Second Coming and the impending Apocalypse; Israel's existence is central to their religious commitment and expectations.

Mr. Robertson insists that when he wrote about ''European bankers'' he did not mean Jewish bankers. He says that it is his experience ''as chairman of one of the nation's largest and most widely respected cable television companies whose stock is traded daily on the New York Stock Exchange . . . that the international financial community is very diverse and can hardly be described as Jewish.''

I am perfectly prepared to believe Mr. Robertson's denials. I also think the important question in all this is one the B'nai B'rith, the New York Review of Books, and the New York Times did not ask:

What does it say about the United States that a man with Mr. Robertson's influence upon the contemporary American political scene, and upon the Republican party in particular (whose presidential nomination he has sought), should believe and promulgate these confused and paranoid lies about history, and do so without serious challenge? What does it imply about the future?

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